Archive for November, 2008

Customer Case: Aydin Mirzaee,

Published on November 26, 2008 at 11:52 pm by heri in: Customer Cases, iWeb Articles

This is an interview of Aydin Myarzee, who founded, a web company based in Ottawa, Canada which develops web applications. has launched last week FluidSurveys, and we thought it was an ideal time to discuss with him about web entrepreneurship and web hosting.

Can you present yourself and your background? Do you consider yourself as a developer, an entrepreneur, or a project manager?

I’d consider myself an entrepreneur more than anything else. As an entrepreneur, you have to do everything… which happens to include both development and project management (in addition to other things).

I grew up in New York City and came to Ottawa to go to school. I had always been interested in starting companies. My brother and I started doing freelance web development work back when I was 14. It was great… we would find our clients on the internet and whenever we had phone conversations with customers, I would put a cloth over the phone to muffle my voice to sound older than I really was. As far as anyone was concerned, we were a major company :)

Our web development company occupied us for some time while we were in school. We tried a few more things in the process (like trying to compete with Yahoo by introducing a better search engine… needless to say, that didn’t go over so well – it was a learning experience though). We kept with web-dev and hosting services for a few years from there.

While in school, I decided to join an organization called the Student World Assembly in its very beginning stages. While I was with the organization, we grew dramatically to reach over 17,000 students in over 100 countries. As assistant to the executive director of the SWA, I was responsible for the finances and fund-raising of the organization.

I also worked for Nortel as a software designer and team leader for a little while after graduating from the University of Ottawa. My first big venture was (a mobile 2.0 company). bOK started to do quite well and was even featured on CTV. We had the chance to make some funny commercials in the process. bOK was tons of fun, but after a peak, things started to go sour and we had to shut it down eventually. Since then, I’ve co-founded a new company called is a software company focused on web applications. We currently have two products: ReviewRoom and fluidSurveys and are growing fast. We are a team of 12 passionate technologists and entrepreneurs looking to destroy the boundaries between the desktop and the web :)

In my free time, I am an advisor to (Designer Brand Retail Store for Men that I co-founded) and write for the blog in addition to my own blog:

Can you tell us about your businesses and products, and projects? What kind of traffic & technology needs do you have to get them running?

review room Our main product is called ReviewRoom. ReviewRoom is a great document review tool at its core. We’ve all been in situations where we’ve sent out a document to 5-6 people and gotten back a number of documents with varying and conflicting comments. Reconciling all of the comments that you receive from a review is very time consuming and arduous. ReviewRoom addresses this problem once and for all.

We didn’t leave ReviewRoom just as a document review tool. We also added workflow and business logic to it. ReviewRoom can also be used to handle more structured reviews such as those in business plan competitions, loan reviews, proposal reviews, etc…

 (if you have any questions about ReviewRoom, send us an email:

 Our second product is called fluidSurveys. fluidSurveys is an online survey creation tool which does a much better job than current tools such as SurveyMonkey and Zoomerang.

What kind of plan do you have with iWeb? How long have you been at iWeb?

Right now we have dedicated boxes with iWeb. Every time we acquire more customers, we call up iWeb to get an additional box onto which we install our software.

What made you choose iWeb, compared to other web hosting companies?

Everyone we talked to who was using a hosting service in Canada was using iWeb. Not only that, but everyone who we talked to also said that they had a great experience with iWeb. After hearing all of the rave reviews, we had to sign up. Now, whenever anyone asks us about hosting, its almost second-nature for us to recommend iWeb.

What have been your experiences with iWeb so far? Is there a feature that you’d like to see offered or improved by iWeb? Would you recommend the company’s product to a friend or a colleague?

iWeb is simply great :) If I had to make a recommendation, I would say that it would be amazing for iWeb to add virtual hosting to the list of services they offer.

I would absolutely recommend iWeb to people I know!

Thanks Aydin for taking his time to discuss his case with us! If you have any questions about this, feel free to leave a comment below.

For more information about dedicated servers at iWeb, see here.


4 Tools to Create A Website Quickly & Easily

Published on November 24, 2008 at 3:51 pm by heri in: Web Development Articles

For those who want to setup a simple, no-frills website for them or for their small business, tools like drupal, wordpress, or joomla are often overkill. While they let you create product catalogues, user forms, shopping carts, forums etc., they require knowledge of programming and html, and they often require weeks in order to get a website running. 

There are also times when you plan to build a big web application, and want to build a prototype that can be submitted to the team, with functional buttons, links, and pages. 

If you just want to publish a page with your contact information, or if you want to sketch quickly a website, here are 4 Tools which will let you build a website in just a few hours:

  • rapidweaver website creation RapidWeaver is a desktop application, avalaible for mac. Users choose from a series of different templates, depending on their needs, and then add pages. Pages with blog functionnality, contact forms, text, image galleries are available, all in a drag&drop interface. You can even edit the code if you know HTML & CSS. A solution which is at the same time simple & powerful.
  • iweb website creation software iweb is an application made by Apple, included in their iLife desktop suite (not to be confused with iWeb!!) It has the same features as RapidWeaver, and is made for users who want to setup their personal websites, with photos, ready-to-use templates, and a drag & drop interface. The drawback is that it’s hard to export your work to your web hosting provider, and files produced by iweb are generally very big in size.
  •  weebly is a web application, with which you can create a website directly within your browser, with a simple and hip interface. You drag elements such as pictures, titles, or videos on the page, choose a design, and voilà, it’s done. You can afterwards edit each element, and then export the website. Moreover, compared to RapidWeaver or iweb, weebly is totally free!
  • synthasite website creation software Synthasite is also a web application, where you design and create your website with the browser. Compared to weebly, you can embed a greater variety of elements in each page, and it has more default themes, however, weebly’s interface is easier and slicker to use. 

Here’s a chart summing up the features for each tool, if you want a quick comparison:

  RapidWeaver iweb weebly synthasite
Simplicity of user interface drag & drop drag & drop, integration with mac os X quick and friendly ajax interface, with step-by-step guide ajax interface, with step-by-step guide
Advanced features blogs, contact forms, image galleries, multimedia, custom html image galleries, google maps, custom html google maps, custom html etc. blogs, online store with Paypal, widgets, 
Price $85 $79 with iLife suite free free
Ability to export content export folder, ftp limited (default to a .me account) yes yes
Number of avalaible designs and themes 40 18 47 64
Customization/plugins Large community for themes and additionnal plugins updates from Apple none integration widgets
Best For Personal website or Small businesses Personal website Personal website, prototyping with a team Personal website

Of course, there’s always the handy Site Builder if you have already a plan at iWeb. 
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Tools for User-Centric Web Development

Published on November 21, 2008 at 11:19 pm by heri in: Web Development Articles

When developping and launching a website, there are many ways on how to manage and lead the project: using traditional waterfall development, following agile development methods, doing user-centric development, etc., all depending on what kind of project you want to do.

The waterfall model, as advised by organizations like the PMI,  where development goes from requirements analysis, design, implementation, testing (validation), integration and maintenance, is best for cases where the problem is known and where the solution is also well-defined. For instance, if you want to setup a personal blog or a website with your portfolio, you are most likely to already have in mind what you want to show and what kind of content to show to your visitors. Pick a software like Wordpress, ask a php freelancer to do development for you for a week or two, and you will have your personal blog running on the Internet in the required time. The waterfall model is also very good in cases where you want to reduce risks to zero and control outcomes & resources used for the project, such as in governmental web projects, or with bigger projects in banking or insurance.

However, there are cases, when you are building a new web application for instance, where the technological solution is not yet defined or unknown, since you’re researching, developing, and testing it with live users at the same time live. This is where Agile development suits best: you build only what you need today, flexibility is preferred to the perfection of the waterfall model. The promise of agile development is that as time advances, your development team will ultimately get to the technology solution.

But what happens if the technology solution is unknown, and at the the same time, the problem (=requirements) is unknown? Agile development can’t be used here, since it assumes there’s a product owner which tells the development team what to work on next.

This is where User-Centric Web Development comes, the next step after agile development. User-Centric development (also called Customer Development Engineering) relies on getting requirements and lists of new features from users and visitors of your website.

This way of development is especially suited for those of you who are launching new web “startups”, or for the readers who already have an existing audience, but who do not know what kind of new features to focus on next. In rough economic conditions, it also insures you have a website which totally fits your users’ needs, instead of guessing of what might work for your users and what won’t. If you have an existing forum with thousands of registered members for instance, and not sure what kind of features to offer to users next, customer development engineering is the best way to do it.

Before listing tools for enabling user-centric web development, you should know first that there are conditions before being able to follow it: you should be able to develop new features very quickly, usually in less than a day, and you should have a web software which is immune to defects, such as having built-in automated tests or being able to roll-back quickly to previous “safe” versions. 

Use the following tools to get feedback and work on new features for your website:

  • Open an account at twitter: twitter or is a great tool to start “conversations” with users of your website. Ask questions such as “What kind of features do you like next on our website?” or “What do you think of having this … for the website?”
  • Start a product blog (you can start with wordpress), with posts discussing the future of the website. Ask readers to specifically leave a comment on the blog post, telling them that their feedback will be taken into account. 
  • Use polling and survey tools such as fluidsurveys, with a series of questions about future features for your websites. FluidSurveys works best here thanks to its branching/skipping features, allowing you to get separate results for different audiences
  • Use split testing (A/B) software which allows you to serve different versions of the same page to visitors, and which allows you to know which color, which text copy, or layout works best for your website. Google’s website optimizer does exactly this. It’s not exactly free, but the amount of data & information you can get is well worth the price of the service.
  • You can also use tools which were made exactly for user-centric development, such as UserVoice. UserVoice gives you a user forum and at the same time a small tab you can embed on your website, allowing you to gather quick feedback from users, just by embedding a single line of code in your website

uservoice for customer development engineering

UserVoice gives users a total of 10 points with which they can “vote” on features they would like to see most on the website.

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Quantum of Solace?

Published on November 20, 2008 at 8:30 am by Bernard Dahl in: Web Hosting Articles

Bernard Dahl wonders how the evolution of James Bond relates to web hostingI grew up watching James Bond movies. I have, in fact, seen all of them. For the most part, James Bond movies have always been built around the same model, though this has started to change recently. Casino Royale had a new (blonde) Bond, and did not use the “shaken, not stirred” line. In the new Quantum of Solace, we don’t even get a “Bond, James Bond“, and there aren’t really any gadgets. Basically, there are virtually none of the things we have come to expect from a Bond movie.

But Bernard, how does this relate to the hosting business?

Well, if nothing had been done to change or update the Bond movies, the producers would have been just fine. They would have survived comfortably, and easily continued to put out profitable movies that appealed to Bond fans worldwide. Not a bad outlook, really. Many web hosting companies are comfortably sitting back knowing that the market for web and server hosting will be auto-sufficient for the near future. And the fact is: you’ll probably be fine if you keep doing what’s worked for years…


Director, Communications and Public Relations
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Search Engine Optimization tips right from Google

Published on November 19, 2008 at 4:36 pm by heri in: Web Development Articles

There was a wide interest about the SEO guide released by Google early last week; so this is a follow-up post with more details for those interested in search engine optimization.

For marketers, content publishers to executives, from new to old webmasters, search engine marketing and search engine optimization has seen an ever-growing interest for the past 5 years, due mainly to the fact that on average, 75% of visitors of a website come from search engines. There’s now an expanding industry with consulting firms, international events, renowned experts, all working to get better ranking and better search results for your website. However, up to now, search engine optimization has had a mystique around it, with a few practicionners using unfair tactics (such as black-hat SEO), and also due to the fact that Google and the other search engines such as Yahoo! or Microsoft Live never endorsed SEO. Of course, there was the Google Webmaster blog and Googlers like Matt Cutts, but they mainly announce policies and rules to fight against spammers and abusive tactics.

The new Google SEO starter guide [PDF] is bound to change this image. The way it’s presented, Google now endorses SEO tactics and guidelines as used by the SEO community, such as using short and descriptive words for URLs, web page titles, page metas, image tags, headings etc. They are detailed sections for the most important parts which influences a website’s rankings in search results pages. Common advice found in each section is:

  • In all cases, use unique, short and accurate words which describe the web page,
  • Think about your users and visitors’ user experience, and not just optimization for Google,
  • Write friendly and unique text for your webpages. Unique here relates to the topic of duplicated web pages, and also in regards to content in other competing websites. 

If you are running a website, those are tips that you have most likely seen around the web in various blog posts, and the Google guide doesn’t add in revolutionary new content, but merely clarifies what works and what doesn’t. It boils down to: craft each page of your website, as if each word and each html tag counts, take the time to find good descriptive words, and then Google is going to reward you for it. 

Apart from basics, the guide also describes advanced methods such as good site navigation, web analytics, usage of the robot.txt file, or the google webmaster service. One that I found highly interesting is the promotion section: Google advises offline promotion at local events, writing original content and doing original reporting, using social media (read: open a blog, and submit your pages at, and reach out to your community. Those are advice that I find very efficient, but I didn’t expect Google to endorse those as “official” guidelines, since it can be described mostly as guerilla marketing. iWeb for instance sponsors local events, we do publish original and high-quality contentnews, and tutorials for the web community, and the company was also amongst the first one in Canada to use a blog to write about new content and new services, starting 7 years ago. Those are just examples for iWeb, but you can certainly use the same pattern for your website. 

Comic from Ranked Hard

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